I have a friend who receives Disability Living Allowance. She can walk for about fifty yards, then she has to sit down, such are her medical problems. The DLA is paid to her so that she can keep herself mobile, it pays for the maintenance on her mobility scooter as well as the numerous taxi fares she needs to get herself around town.
Her scooter is showing its age though. The gearbox is making some alarming noises and she thinks it's about time she replaced it. No problem, the DLA will catch that and the people who service her old scooter have a handy scheme whereby for a not-too-large monthly outlay she can lease a brand new one, all bills paid.
She's no engineer, so when presented with a brochure containing reams of specifications she called me to help make some sense of them all so she could choose the right machine for her needs. No problem, so the other evening found me sitting on her sofa interpreting some of the sales patter.
Along with the scooter paperwork was a catalogue containing all manner of aids for disabled and otherwise restricted people. Everything from specially designed drinking cups through bathing arrangements to electronic devices.
As always I leafed through it out of interest.
What I saw appalled me. Here were items I have seen for sale in 'normal' shops, yet with vastly inflated prices.
A big-button mobile phone for nearly 200 quid, that I've seen on the High Street for under 50 quid. A mini CCTV system for more than I've paid for some cars, that I've seen in the Maplin catalogue for around the price of a cheap bicycle. Those are the two that stuck in my mind because I knew exactly the items in other places, but there were plenty more rather expensive looking but suspiciously simple gadgets.
We've all seen cases where some groups end up paying more for items than they should. Computer peripheral manufacturers should be ashamed of themselves for adding a mark-up just because a PC product is targeted at mac users, for instance. But mac users usually have plenty of money and often have the capability to think for themselves that they're being ripped off.
In this case an industry is specifically targeting vulnerable people who may not have the capability to shop around, and who are grateful for anything they may be able to lay their hands on. Such a huge markup for that customer base in immoral and unethical.
They probably call it business. I don't, I call it stealing.